Fremont County, Iowa

FCHS ~ Rodeo Museum
"Breaking Ground"
by Lona Lewis

View from the Attic ~ A Weekly Series
Fremont County Historical Society
Week of November 9, 2009

Saturday October 31, was a "treat" for the members and friends of the Fremont County Historical Society for on that day ground breaking ceremonies were held to begin the construction of the Rodeo Museum. A large crowd representing all areas of the county was there to celebrate. This event represents another significant milestone for the Society.

The Historical Society is in its fifth decade. The founding group of county-wide representatives named the new organization the Fremont County Historical Society. Its organizing meeting was held July 10, 1962. Officers were elected and the group established its mission: "To preserve the heritage of southwest Iowa and the stories of its people." The Society was ready to begin.

In 1966, the Society acquired its first building for a $1.00; the Baptist church on Cass in Sidney. The Society's growing collection of donated historical items now had a place to be stored. In 1969, a second building was added when the Fremont County Farm Bureau Women moved the Sunnyside Country School, to its current location north of the Museum Church.

The search started for a permanent home to display museum exhibits. In 1972, the Historical Society paid $10,000 for 801 Indiana Street in Sidney. The building that had been a feed store and a car dealership was about to be transformed into a museum.

Volunteers gathered building materials from an old house to create rooms in the museum. A general store and early Penn drug were completed during the nation's Bicentennial. Grant money at that time was secured to continue upgrading the building. The Society's Resource Center has many news stories and pictures from this busy time.

The eighties, were a time of compiling information. The records of the museum are full of information meticulously collected and archived by willing volunteers. Today thousands of obituaries are organized because of these efforts.

In 1995, the Historical Society became involved with the Ferrel House in Randolph. Thelma Ferrel left a trust to turn her home into a beautiful area in the town of Randolph. She asked the Society to take on that task. The result is a completely restored home that reflects the style of the late 1800's. Today, work continues to restore the Ferrel wash house and to beautify the grounds.

In 2000, efforts began to renovate the museum's church. A Vision Iowa CAT grant and hours of volunteer work resulted in the building becoming the Gathering Place. It now serves as a county-wide performing arts center that features a community theater and meeting place.

At the beginning of the new century, leaders of the society realized that the museum exhibits were in need of major repair. The decision was to renovate the exhibits and to acclimatize the building. The project, was expanded in 2006, to include the Rodeo Museum.

The ground breaking held on Saturday, was just another step in the many that have been made from 2006 to the present in moving the whole project forward. But to Historical Society members, the ceremony insures that the organization will continue. It ensures the volunteer work in the past will remain important. The next chapter of the history of the Society has officially begun.

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Page updated on June 20, 2017 by Karyn Techau